These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online. - We Are The Mighty
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These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.


The fist bump was their thing in Afghanistan, where both Marines lost legs in the same attack, and the fist bump is still their thing in the hunt for child predators under a special law enforcement program to train and hire medically retired veterans.

Cpl. Justin Gaertner and Sgt. Gabriel Martinez in their dress blues bumped fists at an event earlier this year in Florida, just as they bumped fists while recovering from their wounds.

Gaertner, 26, of Tampa, Fla., has been partnered for the last two years with retired Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Nathan Cruz, 42, executing the computer forensics to track down sex traffickers in the ICE/HERO program.

Working out of the Tampa, Fla., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, Gaertner and Cruz use their newly-acquired computer skills to determine probable cause and go on raids to seize evidence hidden in computer hard drives, software programs and cell phones, much of it involving disturbing images of young children.

Martinez has just committed to training for the same job that falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s mandate in a program that began two years ago.

He was expected to start the year-long training in the fall for the program that was initially limited to U.S. Special Operations Command veterans but now is open to medically retired vets from all the services, said Tamara Spicer, an ICE spokeswoman.

Martinez and Gaertner were both wounded while on a route clearance mission outside Marjah in Afghanistan’s southwestern Helmand province on Nov. 26, 2010.

An improvised explosive device went off and “my best friend blew up right in front of me,” Gaertner said. He was wounded when he stepped on a mine while trying to clear a medevac landing zone.

STUNNED AT THE SCOPE

In phone interviews last week, Gaertner, who served five years in the Marines, and Cruz, a 15-year Army veteran, said they were both channeling the discipline and determination they brought from the military into going after child predators and pornographers. Despite their training, both admitted they were stunned at the scope of the problem.

“I don’t think we ever realized fully what we were getting into or the nature of the suspects we were going after,” Gaertner said. “We don’t really understand them. There’s no character to the people who do these crimes.

“We’ve seen schoolteachers to daycare workers to sports photographers to diplomats – there’s really no face to these crimes,” Gaertner said. “It’s been hard and it’s been a long road but luckily Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on.”

Cruz also said “I didn’t know what I was going to get into” at the start. “I wasn’t working, I wasn’t doing anything,” but “I heard from some SOCOM buddies about this so I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Now, as the father of three children, “I think there’s nothing better I should be doing,” Cruz said. “Kids are being victimized over and over. They need someone to get their back. We just want to put the guys that are hurting them behind bars.”

Cruz and Gaertner were part of the first HERO Corps (Human Exploitation Rescue Operations Corps) in 2013 working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to meet the growing backlog of sex trafficking cases.

2,300 CHILD PREDATORS

Last year, ICE seized more than 5.2 million gigabytes of data related to child exploitation and pornography and arrested more than 2,300 child predators on criminal charges.

“The HERO program, and the resulting hiring of Nathan and Justin, has paid great dividends for HSI Tampa across the board,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “We gained skilled employees with valuable experience and training.”

In October 2013, the first class of 17 HEROs graduated from the initial training as computer forensic analysts and in October 2014 a second class of 13 HEROs graduated. In August, ICE was expected to begin training another 50 candidates for the HERO Corps.

In May, Congress passed a bill to make the ICE/HERO program a permanent part of Homeland Security and its budget. The bill was quickly signed into law by President Obama as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.

The program had been partly funded by a five-year, $10 million contribution from individuals and foundations through the non-profit National Association to Protect Children.

At a Washington ceremony last month, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson and ICE Director Sarah Saldana swore 22 new vets into the HERO Corps designed “to allow wounded, ill or injured warriors the chance to continue serving their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators.”

“These heroes have all served their country with honor and distinction and, despite the traumas of war they all have endured, they have answered the call yet again,” Johnson said.

“The main thing we’re focusing on is child exploitation,” Cruz said. “I’d say maybe 80 percent of our cases are child pornography.” The average suspect might have about 1,000 images but “we’ve seen cases with more than 40,000 images. They trade them with their buddies so they can get more – that’s how it works. The more I find, the more years you’re going to get.”

RESCUING CHILDREN

Once they have zeroed in on an offender, the hardest, and most rewarding, part of the job begins – finding and rescuing those children in the images, Cruz said.

“We try to save that kid, try to see where he or she is from. That brings more satisfaction, knowing those kids are not going to be harmed anymore.”

Gaertner said that a recent case in which a suspect had 28,000 images led to the rescue of 130 children nationwide.

Cruz and Gaertner also said that part of the job was focusing on themselves and the potential effects of constantly dealing with the worst of society and the images of exploited children. “Luckily, Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on,” Gaertner said.

“We cannot bring work home, we were taught that during our military careers,” Cruz said. “I tell everybody that when I went to SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), the one thing they stress the most is ‘stay in the circle.’ I stay in the circle. Work stays at work, when I go home it’s Nathan the dad.”

While partnering with Gaertner, “we talk about it all the time,” Cruz said of the potential psychological effects. “He knows what I do, I know what he does. Me and Justin, we’re lucky that we’re here together.”

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

Articles

The crazy story of the man who fought for Finland, the Nazis, and US Army Special Forces

Larry Thorne enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private in 1954, but he was already a war hero. That’s because his real name was Lauri Törni, and he had been fighting the Soviets for much of his adult life.


Born in Finland in 1919, Törni enlisted at age 19 in his country’s army and fought against the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-40, according to Helsingin Sanomat. He quickly rose to the rank of captain and took command of a group of ski troops, who quite literally, skied into battle against enemy forces.

In 1942, he was severely wounded after he skied into a mine, but that didn’t slow him down. In 1944 during what the Finns called The Continuation War, he received Finland’s version of the Medal of Honor — the Mannerheim Cross — for his bravery while leading a light infantry battalion.

Unfortunately for Törni, Finland signed a ceasefire and ceded some territory to the Soviets in 1944 to end hostilities. But instead of surrendering, he joined up with the German SS so he could continue fighting. He received additional training in Nazi Germany and then looked forward to kicking some Commie butt once more.

But then Germany fell too, and the Finn-turned-Waffen SS officer was arrested by the British, according to War History Online. Not that being put into a prison camp would stop him either.

“In the last stages of the war he surrendered to the British and eventually returned to Finland after escaping a British POW camp,” reads the account at War History Online. “When he returned, he was then arrested by the Finns, even though he had received their Medal of Honor, and was sentenced to 6 years in prison for treason.”

He ended up serving only half his sentence before he was pardoned by the President of Finland in 1948.

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Getting to America

Törni’s path to the U.S. Army was paved by crucial legislation from Congress along with the creation of a new military unit: Special Forces.

In June 1950, the Lodge-Philbin Act passed, which allowed foreigners to join the U.S. military and allowed them citizenship if they served honorably for at least five years. Just two years later, the Army would stand up its new Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg, N.C.

More than 200 eastern Europeans joined Army Special Forces before the Act expired in 1959, according to Max Boot. One of those enlistees was Törni, who enlisted in 1954 under the name Larry Thorne.

“The Soviets wanted to get their hands on Thorne and forced the Finnish government to arrest him as a wartime German collaborator. They planned to take him to Moscow to be tried for war crimes,” reads the account at ArlingtonCemetery.net. “Thorne had other plans. He escaped, made his way to the United States, and with the help of Wild Bill Donovan became a citizen. The wartime head of the OSS knew of Thorne’s commando exploits.”

A Special Forces legend

Thorne quickly distinguished himself among his peers of Green Berets. Though he enlisted as a private, his wartime skill-set led him to become an instructor at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg teaching everything from survival to guerrilla tactics. In 1957, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and would rise to the rank of captain just as war was on the horizon in Vietnam.

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

But first, he would take part in a daring rescue mission inside of Iran. In 1962, then-Capt. Thorne led an important mission to recover classified materials from a U.S. Air Force plane that crashed on a mountaintop on the Iran-Turkish-Soviet border, according to Helsingin Sanomat. Though three earlier attempts to secure the materials had failed, Thorne’s team was successful.

According to the U.S. Army:

Thorne quickly made it into the U.S. Special Forces and in 1962, as a Captain, he led his detachment onto the highest mountain in Iran to recover the bodies and classified material from an American C-130 airplane that had crashed. It was a mission in which others had failed, but Thorne’s unrelenting spirit led to its accomplishment. This mission initially formed his status as a U.S. Special Forces legend, but it was his deep strategic reconnaissance and interdiction exploits with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, also known as MACV-SOG, that solidified his legendary status.

In Vietnam, he earned the Bronze Star medal for heroism, along with five Purple Hearts for combat wounds, War History Online writes. According to Helsingin Sanomat, his wounds allowed him to return to the rear away from combat, but he refused and instead requested command of a special operations base instead.

On Oct. 18, 1965, Thorne led the first MACV-SOG cross-border mission into Laos to interdict North Vietnamese movement down the Ho Chi Minh trail. Using South Vietnamese Air Force helicopters, his team was successfully inserted into a clearing inside Laos while Thorne remained in a chase helicopter to direct support as needed. Once the team gave word they had made it in, he responded that he was heading back to base.

Roughly five minutes later while flying in poor visibility and bad weather, the helicopter crashed. The Army first listed him as missing in action, then later declared he was killed in action — in South Vietnam. The wreckage of the aircraft was found prior to the end of the war and the remains of the South Vietnamese air crew were recovered, but Thorne was never found.

Thorne’s exploits in combat made him seem invincible among his Special Forces brothers, and with his body never recovered, many believed he had survived the crash and continued to live in hiding or had been taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese, according to POW Network.

“Many believed he was exactly the sort of near-indestructible soldier who would have simply walked back out of the jungle, and they found it hard to believe he had been killed,” writes Helsingin Sanomat.

In 1999, the mystery was finally put to rest. The remains of the legendary Special Forces soldier were recovered from the crash site. DNA confirmed the identities of the air crew, while dental records proved Törni had died on that fateful night in 1965, reported Helsingin Sanomat.

“He was a complex yet driven man who valorously fought oppression under three flags and didn’t acknowledge the meaning of quit,” U.S. Army Special Forces Col. Sean Swindell said during a ceremony in 2010.

NOW: This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Terabyte of Death’ cyberattack against DoD looms

The vast, global networks of the Defense Department are under constant attack, with the sophistication of the cyber assaults increasing, the director of Defense Information Systems Agency said Jan. 11.


Army Lt. Gen. Alan R. Lynn, who is also the commander of the Joint Force Headquarters, Department of Defense Information Networks, described some of the surprises of being in his post, which he has held since 2015.

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Alan R. Lynn (Photo from U.S. Army)

Lynn spoke at a luncheon of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s Washington Chapter. He said,

We do an excellent job of defending the [Department of Defense Information Networks], but the level of attacks that we’ve seen actually was really truly surprising and it still continues to surprise me just how robust the attacks have become.

‘Terabyte of Death’ Attack: A Matter of When, Not If

A few years ago, getting a 1-gigabyte or 2-gigabyte attack at the internet access point was a big deal, he said. “Now, we get 600-gig attacks on the internet access points and unique, different ways of attacking that we hadn’t thought of before,” he added.

The Defense Department is fortified against even larger attacks, he said.

“There’s now, we would call it the ‘terabyte of death’ — there is a terabyte of death that is looming outside the door,” he said. “We’re prepared for it, so we know it’s coming.”

He noted, “It’s just a matter of time before it hits us.”

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Kayla Rorick.)

Scale of DoD Networks ‘Massive’

Lynn, who retires next month, said the size of the DoD network is something else that surprised him. He described it as a “massive,” 3.2 million-person network that he has to defend or help support in some way.

“There’s something happening every second of every minute globally that you can’t take your eye off of,” he said.

The department needs agile systems for the warfighter to stay ahead of an adversary that is evolving and moving, he pointed out.

There are challenges to finding solutions that scale to the DoD Information Networks, he said. A commercial solution that works for a smaller operation might not translate into something that is effective for the worldwide DoD networks, he explained.

Related: Why it’s a big deal that Cyber Command is now a combatant command

DISA, he pointed out, is a combat support agency responsible for a multitude of networks. He cited as examples the networks between the drones and the drone pilots, or the F-35 “flying mega-computer” that needs a lot of data and intelligence, or the “big pipes” that connect various entities to missile defense.

He explained how commercial mobile platforms have been modified for warfighters to accommodate secret or top secret communications.

“Anywhere they are, globally, if they’ve got to make a serious decision right now and it means seconds, that’s there and available to them,” he said, adding that mobile platforms are becoming “more and more capable as we go.”

Warfighting, which now includes streaming drone video feeds, is happening on mobile devices, he said. “It’s pretty cool to watch,” he remarked.

While acknowledging DISA does do “a lot of cool IT stuff,” Lynn said all of the efforts support a singular focus. “At the end of the day, it’s about lethality,” he said.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Chinese citizens are furious at the death of the whistleblower doctor censored for talking about the coronavirus

Chinese citizens are furious after the death of Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who was censored for warning about the beginning of the coronavirus, and his mother said she wasn’t able to say goodbye.


Li died of the coronavirus at 2:58 a.m. local time on Friday, the Wuhan Central Hospital, where he also worked, said in a statement on the microblogging site Weibo.

“During the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak, Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at our hospital, was infected. Efforts to save him were ineffective. He died at 2:58 a.m. on Feb. 7. We deeply regret and mourn his death,” the post said.

Li had warned some of his medical-school colleagues about the virus on December 30, about three weeks after the outbreak started but shortly before the government officially acknowledged it. The virus has now killed more than 630 people, mostly in China, and spread to more than 20 countries.

Li had said that some patients at his hospital were quarantined with a respiratory illness that seemed like SARS. But he was reprimanded and silenced by the police in Wuhan, made to sign a letter that said he was “making false comments.”

People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s Communist Party, reported that he said on social media before his death: “After I recover from the disease, I will work on the front line of the battle. The virus is still spreading, and I don’t want to be a deserter.”

Li is now being hailed as a hero in China, with posts seeking justice for him and calling for freedom of speech trending on Weibo. Many were removed from the site, which often complies with government demands to censor politically sensitive content.

The top two trending hashtags on Weibo on Friday were “Wuhan government owes Dr. Li Wenliang an apology” and “We want freedom of speech,” the BBC reported. It said that hours later those hashtags had been removed and “hundreds of thousands of comments had been wiped.”

According to the BBC, one comment on Weibo said: “This is not the death of a whistleblower. This is the death of a hero.”

Li’s death was the most-read topic on Weibo on Friday, with more than 1.5 billion views, The Guardian reported.

Li’s death was also widely discussed in private messaging groups on WeChat, the instant-messaging sister app to Weibo, The Guardian said.

CNN called the response “overwhelming, near-universal public fury.”

One image shared on Weibo showed that someone had carved “farewell Li Wenliang” into the snow in Beijing.

People’s Daily wrote on Friday: “At present, China has entered a critical stage of epidemic prevention and control work. The country needs solidarity more than ever to jointly win a battle that it cannot lose, so that its people can be protected against disaster and patients around the country can return to health.

“No one can make an accurate prediction about when the battle will end, but everyone knows that only with sufficient confidence can the people win the battle against the novel coronavirus.”

His parents ‘never, never, never saw’ him

In a heartbreaking interview with the Chinese news site Pear Video on Friday after Li’s death, Li’s mother said she never got to say goodbye to her son in his final days.

She said the hospital sent a car to pick up her and Li’s father, “then they sent his body to the crematorium.”

She said they “never, never, never saw” him for the last time.

“Thirty-four years old. He had so much potential, so much talent. He’s not the kind of person who would lie,” she said, alluding to Li’s reprimand by the police in Wuhan.

Li had a wife, who is pregnant, and a 5-year-old son, his mother said. Shortly after the outbreak, Li sent them to Xiangyang, a city about 200 miles from Wuhan.

The Chinese government has been accused of covering up the virus

Chinese authorities have been criticized as responding slowly to the virus. Officials have arrested citizens accused of spreading rumors online and detained journalists covering the virus.

The announcement of Li’s death also came amid conflicting statements in which state media reported that he had died, then that he was still alive, and then again that he had died.

China’s Communist Party has sent investigators to Wuhan to do “a comprehensive investigation into the problems reported by the public concerning Dr. Li Wenliang,” state media reported Friday.

Earlier this month, the Chinese government issued a rare statement acknowledging that its response to the virus had “shortcomings and deficiencies.”

The World Health Organization has largely defended China’s response, saying it has been much more open with the world about this virus than it was in the early 2000s with the SARS outbreak, which it tried to cover up.

President Donald Trump also tweeted his support for Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, calling him “strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus.”

Many other doctors have caught the virus in Wuhan, where the health system has become overwhelmed and supplies are running low.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Hilarious Hoax: A drunken sailor didn’t use a raccoon to pass a breathalyzer test

A hilarious incident report involving a Navy sailor using a raccoon to pass a breathalyzer test so he could drive his car home  was passed around on the internet like wildfire this week, but … it was too good to be true: It’s all a hoax.


A few days ago, WATM noticed an image being passed around, purportedly from an incident report from Camp Pendleton police, telling the full story of what happened after a sailor left the bar in San Diego. Here it is:

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.

We were skeptical, though we read it and basically went all Ron Burgundy afterward (“I’m not even mad, that’s amazing”). It sounded quite unbelievable, and it also had a suspicious watermark in the background. The watermark reads, “Always Watching, JTTOTS,” the tagline and acronym for a Marine-focused Facebook page called Just The Tip, of the Spear.

Since it picked up steam and has hit quite a few websites — including making international news — journalists reached out to the military for comment on the incident (We’d love to know how these calls went). Here’s what they said:

“While humorous, it’s not real,” Eric Durie, spokesman for Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, told the New York Daily News.

“I called police records, and while they were highly entertained, they confirmed (the story) is absolutely a hoax,” 1st. Lt. Savannah Frank, a public affairs officer at Camp Pendleton, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

So this story may not be true, but we have a strong feeling a drunk sailor will someday be inspired to try this.

NOW A REAL STORY: Marine gets arrested for throwing drunken foam party in Air Force hangar

MIGHTY SPORTS

10 greatest Army-Navy spirit videos

Every year, Army cadets and Navy midshipmen spend hours or weeks making spirit videos to taunt the opponent during the week before the annual Army-Navy game.

Once the game is over, most of us never think about them again. This year, we decided to go back and resurface some of the finest spirit videos from the last decade. No matter which side you’re on, these videos feature some sick burns.


Lead From The Front: An Army/Navy Short Film 2017 [4K]

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1. Army: Lead From the Front (2017)

This is more like a short film than a spirit video. It’s a heist movie with Bill the Goat substituted for a vault full of money.

STAR WARS at Navy

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2. Navy: Star Wars (2015)

Rescue fantasies seem to be a recurring theme in Navy videos. This time, midshipmen are sent on a mission to rescue Princess Leia from the West Point Death Star.

Alexis: Army Navy Spirit Video 2018

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3. Army: Alexis (2018)

How do you get a squid to run? Computer hacking seems to be the key.

Mission Bond (Army-Navy Spirit Spot 2017)

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4. Navy: Mission Bond (2017)

Who knew there was a Midshipman James Bond? Bond rescues Navy Pride with the aid of the USNA Parachute Team.

Army Navy 2017 Spirit Video: Sing Second

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5. Army: Sing Second (2017)

Who says a spirit video has to be funny? West Point cadets show their spirit with an inspiring musical performance.

We Give a Ship

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6. Navy: We Give a Ship (2014)

Stuck for an idea? You can always fall back on your favorite joke from second grade: Ship sounds like another word that’ll get you sent to the principal, so use it freely!

Operation Calamari – Army Navy Spirit Video 2017 | ThomasVlogs

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7. Army: Operation Calamari (2017)

West Point cadets break in at Annapolis and then demonstrate how easy it can be to pass as a sailor.

Army Navy Spirit Spot 2012 – Game for the Real Players

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8. Navy: Game for the Real Players (2012)

Back when Navy was overwhelming Army every year, rapper Baasik’s spirit video taunted cadets over their losing streak.

Child’s Play – Army/Navy Spirit Video 2016

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9. Army: Child’s Play (2016)

Kids play soldier, not sailors. It’s that simple.

USNA Look At Me Now Army Navy Spirit Video

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10. Navy: Look at Me Now (2013)

The rhymes are savage. Does the fact that this middie needs closed captioning detract from his game?

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is quietly invading this important U.S. ally

Ten years after the two countries fought a short but deeply formative war, Russia is quietly seizing more territory on a disputed border with Georgia as it warns NATO against admitting the tiny Eurasian nation as a member state.

Despite warnings from Washington and the fact Georgia is a top US ally, Russia and local allies have been swallowing more and more territory in recent years. The Georgian government and international community have continuously decried this ongoing practice as illegal.


The ongoing, incremental seizure of land has had a detrimental impact on many locals, as the Russia-backed “borderization” has split communities and led some Georgians to literally find their homes in Russian-controlled territory overnight, NBC News reports

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.

Areas around Abhazya and Guney Osetya currently occupied by Russia

Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory

Since 2011, there have been at least 54 instances of “borderizaton” on the border separating South Ossetia and Georgia, according to the Heritage Foundation . The “borderization” process “includes constructing illegal fencing and earthen barriers to separate communities and further divide the Georgian population,” the conservative think tank said in a recent report.

It’s not clear whether this is being directed by Moscow or the pro-Russian government in South Ossetia, but the Kremlin hasn’t done anything to stop it.

Russia has 19 military bases in South Ossetia alone and its activities in the region, on top of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have continued to raise alarm bells in the West. The Russian military and its allies currently occupy roughly 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory.

The ongoing dispute over these territories has made the normalization of relations between Georgia and Russia impossible.

It’s also a large part of the reason the US has continued to provide Georgia with 0 million in aid every single year, which is also linked to the country’s active role in supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Georgia has sent more troops to Afghanistan per capita than any other US ally.

With Russia to the north, Turkey to the west, and Iran not far to the south, Georgia is at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. It’s also an important route for oil from the Caspian Sea.

In short, Georgia may not be on the forefront of every American’s mind, but the country is of great geopolitical significance to the US.

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.

A Georgian soldier with the Special Mountain Battalion takes a knee and provides security after exiting a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Feb. 16, 2014, during Georgian Mission Rehearsal Exercise

Georgia’s NATO woes

Prior to the 2008 conflict, Georgia received assurances it would soon join NATO. The war complicated this process, but NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg recently reaffirmed the alliance’s intention to accept Georgia as a member state. Subsequently, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he would respond aggressively if this occurred.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday echoed Putin and said if NATO admitted Georgia it could trigger a “terrible conflict.”

“This could provoke a terrible conflict. I don’t understand what they are doing this for,” Medvedev told the Russia-based Kommersant newspaper.

The Russian prime minister added that Stoltenberg’s recent reiteration of NATO’s intention to admit Georgia is “an absolutely irresponsible position and a threat to peace.”

‘The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering’

The US government has spoken out against Russia’s activities in the region, but seems reluctant to offer a more forceful response.

“The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering,” Elizabeth Rood, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Tbilisi, told NBC News.

“We strongly support Georgia in calling out Russia and the de facto separatist regimes on human rights abuses in the occupied territories,” Rood added, “and on the continued violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Vice President Mike Pence made similar remarks on a visit to Georgia last year.

“Today, Russia continues to occupy one-fifth of Georgian territory,”Pence said . “So, to be clear — the United States of America strongly condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgia’s soil.”

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A decade later, a six-day war is still on Georgia’s mind

The subject of who fired the first shots in the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is a subject of great debate. But the conflict ended in a matter of days after Russian troops pushed past the disputed territories and marched well into Georgia, sparking international condemnation.

The conflict resulted in the deaths of roughly 850 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

The six-day war was largely fought over two disputed territories in the region: South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia has occupied these territories since the conflict ended, though the vast majority of the international community recognizes them as part of Georgia. The Russian government at one point agreed to remove its troops from the territories, but has not followed through with this pledge.

Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the war. Georgians marked it by taking to the streets in Tbilisi and protesting against Russia’s ongoing occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Articles

These are the 7 most lethal Navy weapons

The Navy has the mission of securing American interests on the ocean, otherwise known as “most of the planet.” Here are 7 weapons that help them fight battles across the globe:


1. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile- one of the most dangerous weapons

 

 

At $569,000 apiece, Tomahawks are expensive cruise missiles that pack a huge punch. They fly at 550 mph and have a maximum range between 700 and 1350 nautical miles, depending on which version of the missile is used. They can carry either 166 bomblets, a 1,000-pound conventional warhead, or the W80 nuclear warhead with a 5-150 kt yield. The Block IV Tomahawk missiles can even be reprogrammed in flight to hit different targets.

2. MK 48 Heavyweight Torpedo

 

The MK 48 heavy torpedo has 650 pounds of high-explosives packed into its warhead. It can swim at 28 knots for more than 5 miles to reach its target, homing in on it with an advanced sonar system. The Mod 7 version has new sonar and guidance for better engaging targets in both deep and littoral waters while getting past enemy countermeasures.

3. Trident II Ballistic Missile

 

 

Deployed aboard Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, each Trident II can carry 14 independently-targeted nuclear warheads. The warheads can be the W76 with a yield of 100 kt or the W88 which yields a 475-kt explosion. The submarines were built to carry 24 each. The number of nuclear warheads on a Trident II was limited to eight and the number of missiles on each submarine was limited to 20 by nuclear treaties.

4. Standard Missile- There’s really nothing standard about this weapon.

 

The Standard Missile has a boring name but awesome capabilities. It’s a family of missiles that are primarily for shooting down planes and helicopters but can also attack ships, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles. One even took out a satellite.

Currently, different missiles are needed for different missions. The SM-2 can cripple an enemy ship while the SM-3 focuses on ballistic missiles. The youngest member of the family may change that. The SM-6 has successfully engaged cruise and ballistic missiles and may be tested against surface ships in the future.

5. MK 50 Advanced lightweight torpedo

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho

 

While the MK 50 is much lighter than the MK 48 above, it still hits with an impressive 100-pound warhead and can swim at a blistering 40 knots. Designed to chase down and destroy double-hulled nuclear submarines, the MK 50 was created to get past torpedo countermeasures and kill the enemy, even in shallow water. It’s one hell of a weapon.

6. Laser Weapon System

 

 

Yes, this weapon is exactly what it sounds like. Already deployed aboard the USS Ponce, the Navy’s Laser Weapon System concentrates light into a fine point, heating a target until it burns or explodes. So far, the laser has only been used in tests but the crew of the USS Ponce is allowed to use the laser to defend the ship from actual threats. The laser can fire at different targets in rapid succession. Since shots cost less than a dollar each, double-tapping is probably fine.

7. Railgun

 

Like the laser above, the railgun is currently serving on only one Navy ship. The USNS Millinocket carries the prototype weapon, essentially a cannon that uses magnets instead of chemical propellents to fire a round over 110 nautical miles. Because the round is moving so fast, it can bust bunkers and other hard targets without the need for explosives. Also, the railgun is expected to be able to engage missiles, speedboats, and aircraft at a fraction of the cost of other weapons.

The weapon will be transferred to the USNS Trenton and taken to Florida for additional tests in 2016.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran sues US at the World Court for leaving the nuclear deal

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has confirmed that Iran has filed a lawsuit against the United States over the reimposition of sanctions against Tehran by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, claiming the move violates the nuclear treaty Tehran signed with the United States and five other world powers.

A U.S. State Department official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said on July 17, 2018, that Iran’s application was “baseless” and that Washington intended “to vigorously defend the United States before the ICJ.”


Confirmation by the court on July 17, 2018, came a day after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that the case was filed at the ICJ to hold the United States “accountable for its unlawful reimposition of unilateral sanctions.”

“Iran is committed to the rule of law in the face of U.S. contempt for diplomacy and legal obligations,” Zarif tweeted. “It’s imperative to counter its habit of violating international law.”

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.

U.S. President Donald Trump

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Under the deal signed in 2015, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union agreed to lift international sanctions against Iran.

In return, Iran scaled back its uranium-enrichment program and promised not work on developing nuclear weapons.

The lifting of sanctions has allowed Iran to sell its oil and natural gas on world markets — although secondary U.S. sanctions remained in place.

But in May 2018, the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump said during a NATO summit in July 2018 that with the U.S. increasing sanctions on Iran, “at a certain point they’re going to call me and say, ‘Let’s make a deal,’ and we’ll make a deal.”

But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said on July 17, 2018, that if Trump wants to negotiate after pulling out of the international agreement, he would have to “initiate the call himself” because Iran’s top leadership was now rejecting any talks with the United States.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How new Army and Marine uniforms are signaling a looming ‘big ass fight’

U.S. military officials and policymakers are devoting increased attention to the potential for conflict with a near-peer competitor, and they’ve pursued a number of operational and equipment changes to prepare for it.


Among the latest moves is the rollout of more cold-weather gear among the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, underscoring the military’s growing concern about its ability to operate in extreme environments outside the Middle East.

For the last several years, the Army has been looking to update its gear for extremes, mainly jungles and the harsh cold. Included in that search was a new cold-weather boot and a cold-weather clothing system that could be adjusted for various temperatures.

In recent weeks, soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in New York have done winter training operations with new gloves, headgear, socks, gaiters, parkas, and trousers. That new gear was focused on “face, hands, and feet,” 1st Sgt. Daniel Bryan, first sergeant of the division’s Light Fighters School, told Army Times.

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.
Marines with Company C, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, conduct practical application techniques during exercise Nordic Frost at Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho, Vt., Jan. 20, 2018. The exercise allowed Marines to demonstrate their ability to operate in a cold weather mountainous environment, conducting land navigation, marksmanship training, demolitions, call for fire training and other core competencies. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Samantha Schwoch)

The unit also received new skis. Built shorter and wider, like cross-country skis, they were brought in so inexperienced soldiers could strap into them with their cold-weather boots and be able to maneuver in short order. Those new skis were also being deployed among Army units in Alaska, Vermont, and Italy.

Troops at Fort Drum have done cold-weather exercises for some time, but the base’s recent designation as a Zone 7 — the same designation as Fort Wainwright in Alaska and Camp Ethan Allen in Vermont — steered millions of dollars more in funding there so soldiers could undertake more training.

The new equipment has been fielded as part of an effort to prepare troops physically and mentally for cold-weather operations.

“We don’t want [the cold] to hibernate us,” Bryan said. “We want to be physically and mentally prepared.”

‘You’re going to get your skis … so get ready’

The Marine Corps has also been reorienting itself for operations in the extreme cold.

In mid-January, the Corps issued two requests for information for a cap and gloves for intense cold. The Marines want both to be able to withstand temperatures down to 50 below zero and be fast-drying and water repellant, with the gloves able to work with touchscreen devices.

The Corps also plans to spend $12.75 million — $7 million in fiscal year 2018 — to buy 2,648 sets of the NATO ski system for scout snipers, reconnaissance Marines, and some infantrymen, with the first sets arriving at the end of the 2018 calendar year.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in December that the Marine Corps Rotational Force Europe, based in Norway, would be the first to get the gear.

Also Read: Silver coating may be the future of military cold weather clothing

“No Marine is going to leave here unless they know how to ski,” Neller said at the time, according to Military.com. “You’re going to get your skis here in about a week, so get ready.”

U.S. Marines have been in Norway on rotational deployments since early 2017, though they’ve stored equipment there for some time.

The deployments, the first of their kind, have focused on tactical training for offensive operations in cold weather (and irked Russia).

The primary reason for creating the rotational force was improving cold-weather training, one of Neller’s main goals.

Some exercises, done with NATO allies and non-NATO partners, have taken place just 200 miles from Norway’s border with Russia. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit has also been conducting cold-weather training in neighboring Sweden.

The adjustment to the region hasn’t been totally smooth.

Marines in Norway’s Arctic region in 2016 and early 2017 reported a number of problems with their gear, which was pulled from the service’s inventory of cold-weather equipment. Zippers stuck; seams ripped; backpack frames snapped, and boots repeatedly pulled loose from skis or tore on the metal bindings, according to Military.com.

The equipment problems spurred a wave of feedback from Marines, leading the Corps to start looking at upgrades and replacements — including some cold-weather gear used by the Army as well as reinforced backpack frames suitable for frigid temperatures.

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.
Reserve Marines with Company F, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, stage their vehicles on training day five of exercise Winter Break 2018, aboard Camp Grayling, Michigan, Feb. 11, 2018. During Winter Break 18, Fox Co. took part in platoon and company operations that increased their operational capacity in single degree temperatures and snow-covered terrain. (Image from USMC)

The Marine Corps’ overall plans for new gear goes beyond just outfitting a small rotational force, however, and those moves fit in with preparations for a future fight that Neller has said could be on the horizon.

“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller said during a December address to Marines in Norway. Neller said he saw a “big-ass fight” in the future and told them to be ready for a variety of missions.

Neller also said he expected the force’s attention to shift to new areas. “I think probably the focus, the intended focus is not on the Middle East,” Neller said, according to Military.com. “The focus is more on the Pacific and Russia.”

Increasing tensions with Russia and North Korea have increased the potential the U.S. military could face cold-weather fighting again — particularly in Northwest Asia.

During the Korean War, brutal cold plagued U.S. troops who lacked enough cold-weather gear and faced problems like frozen rations and gear damaged by subzero temperatures. Decades later, soldiers who recovered from frostbite and other injuries found themselves suffering from new symptoms related to their exposure.

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Iran just shot a barrage of ballistic missiles into Syria

Iran says its ballistic missile strike targeting the Islamic State group in Syria was not only a response to deadly attacks in Tehran, but a powerful message to arch-rival Saudi Arabia and the United States, one that could add to already soaring regional tensions.


The launch, which hit Syria’s eastern city of Deir el-Zour on June 18th, appeared to be Iran’s first missile attack abroad in over 15 years and its first in the Syrian conflict, in which it has provided crucial support to embattled President Bashar Assad.

It comes amid the worsening of a long-running feud between Shiite powerhouse Iran and Saudi Arabia, with supports Syrian rebels and has led recent efforts to isolate the Gulf nation of Qatar.

It also raises questions about how US President Donald Trump’s administration, which had previously put Iran “on notice” for its ballistic missile tests, will respond.

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force in charge of the country’s missile program, said it launched six Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from the western provinces of Kermanshah and Kurdistan. State television footage showed the missiles on truck missile launchers in the daylight before being launched at night.

The missiles flew over Iraq before striking what the Guard called an Islamic State command center and suicide car bomb operation in Deir el-Zour, over 370 miles away. The extremists have been trying to fortify their positions in the Syrian city in the face of a US-led coalition onslaught on Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital.

Syrian opposition activist Omar Abu Laila, who is based in Germany but closely follows events in his native Deir el-Zour, said two Iranian missiles fell near and inside the eastern town of Mayadeen, an Islamic State stronghold. He said there were no casualties from the strikes. The IS group did not immediately acknowledge the strikes.

Iraqi lawmaker Abdul-Bari Zebari said his country agreed to the missile overflight after coordination with Iran, Russia, and Syria.

The Guard described the missile strike as revenge for attacks on Tehran earlier this month that killed at least 18 people and wounded more than 50, the first such IS assault in the country.

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.
Photo released by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency on Monday, June 19, 2017. (IRIB News Agency, Morteza Fakhrinejad via AP)

But the missiles sent a message to more than just the extremists in Iraq and Syria, Gen. Ramazan Sharif of the Guard told state television in a telephone interview.

“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,” he said. “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.”

June 18th’s missile strike came amid recent confrontations in Syria between US-backed forces and pro-government factions. The US recently deployed a truck-mounted missile system into Syria as Assad’s forces cut off the advance of America-backed rebels along the Iraqi border. Meanwhile, the US on June 18th shot down a Syrian aircraft for the first time, marking a new escalation of the conflict as Russia warned it would consider any US-led coalition planes in Syria west of the Euphrates River to be targets.

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

The Zolfaghar missile, unveiled in September 2016, was described at the time as carrying a cluster warhead and being able to strike as far as 435 miles away.

That puts the missile in range of the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command in Qatar, American bases in the United Arab Emirates, and the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

The missile also could strike Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. While Iran has other ballistic missiles it says can reach longer distances, the June 18th strike appears to be the furthest carried out abroad. Iran’s last foreign missile strike is believed to have been carried out in April 2001, targeting an exiled Iranian group in Iraq.

Iran has described the Tehran attackers as being “long affiliated with the Wahhabi,” an ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. However, it stopped short of directly blaming the kingdom for the attack, though many in the country have expressed suspicion that Iran’s regional rival had a hand in the assault.

Since Trump took office, his administration has put new economic sanctions on those allegedly involved with Iran’s missile program as the Senate has voted for applying new sanctions on Iran. However, the test launches haven’t affected Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Israel is also concerned about Iran’s missile launches and has deployed a multilayered missile-defense system. When Iran unveiled the Zolfaghar in 2016, it bore a banner printed with a 2013 quote by Khamenei saying that Iran will annihilate the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa should Israel attack Iran.

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

On June 19th, Israeli security officials said they were studying the missile strike to see what they could learn about its accuracy and capabilities. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

“We are following their actions. And we are also following their words,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “And I have one message to Iran: Do not threaten Israel.”

Iranian officials meanwhile offered a series of threats of more strikes, including former Guard chief Gen. Mohsen Rezai. He wrote on Twitter: “The bigger slap is yet to come.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Suspicions mount of foreign hand in fire at sensitive Iranian nuclear site

There is growing support among outside security experts for the notion that an “incident” at Iran’s main nuclear-enrichment facility last week was an act of sabotage in a shadow war aimed at setting back Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Many analysts believe that a foreign state, possibly Israel, was behind the July 2 fire at the Natanz facility in Iran’s central Isfahan Province.



The conflagration caused “considerable financial damage,” according to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, which had originally sought to downplay the incident.

An image released by Iran in the aftermath of the incident and satellite images released abroad showed significant damage — including ripped-out doors, scorch marks, and a collapsed roof — at a building where centrifuges were assembled.

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Iranian authorities have said they know the cause of the incident but have withheld any public announcement due to “security” issues.

“Many countries have a clear interest to delay the Iranian nuclear military project; one of them is Israel,” Yaakov Amidror, a retired major general and former national-security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told RFE/RL.

Iran maintains that all of its nuclear activities are peaceful, and it has opened its known nuclear sites to UN inspectors since signing a deal in 2015 exchanging curbs on its nuclear program for sanctions relief with world powers including the United States, which has since walked away from the deal.

But the United States and Israel have for years accused Iran of a long-running effort to acquire a nuclear bomb-making capability.

Previous Attacks

They are thought to have targeted Iran’s nuclear program in the past with cyberattacks and malicious software, or malware.

One of those suspected joint efforts was the Stuxnet computer worm, which damaged Iran’s nuclear infrastructure according to reports that began to emerge in 2010.

At least four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated between 2010 and 2012, engendering speculation that the killings were part of a suspected covert campaign waged by Israel against Iran’s nuclear program.

After last week’s fire at Natanz, The Washington Post on July 6 quoted a Middle Eastern security official as saying a “huge explosive device” had been planted by Israeli operatives to “send a signal” to Tehran.

“There was an opportunity, and someone in Israel calculated the risk and took the opportunity,” the unnamed official told the paper.

On July 5, The New York Times quoted “a Middle Eastern intelligence official with knowledge of the episode” as saying Israel had targeted Natanz using what the paper called “a powerful bomb.”

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied any role in the incident.

Speaking on July 5, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said his country wasn’t “necessarily” behind every incident in Iran, adding that Israel’s long-standing policy is not to allow Iran access to nuclear capabilities.

Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said Israel has demonstrated the ability “to penetrate Iran’s nuclear program,” most recently in 2018 when Israeli agents are reported to have broken into a warehouse in the Iranian capital and extracted a trove of documents detailing the country’s nuclear activities.

“It is the type of operation that Israel might conduct at any time when it sees the opportunity,” Goldenberg, who previously headed an Iran team in the Office of the U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, told RFE/RL.

‘Perception Of Chaos’

Speaking generally and not about this specific incident, he suggested the aim of such operations might be to delay Iran’s nuclear program “as much as possible.”

“For Israelis, there is also the additional benefit of trying to create the perception of chaos at a time when the Iranian government is struggling with an economic crisis and COVID-19,” he added.

The Natanz incident comes amid a gradual backing away by Tehran from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.

It has said its moves are a response to the May 2018 withdrawal from the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) by U.S. President Donald Trump and the reimposition of harsh U.S. sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Raz Zimmt, an Iran analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, suggested that the incident at Natanz could reflect Israeli concern about Iran’s expansion of its nuclear activities beyond the limit set in the nuclear deal, which Israel opposed.

“Not only that Iran still refuses to return to negotiations, but it has withdrawn from its commitments to the JCPOA shortening the breakout time considerably,” he said in a reference to the period needed to amass enough weapons-grade uranium to arm a nuclear weapon.

“Under those circumstances, and especially considering the possibility that it would be difficult to go back to the JCPOA whether Trump wins the U.S. elections [in November] or [Democratic challenger] Joe Biden [does], Israel is back in the dilemma of either to allow Iran to continue advancing its nuclear program up to a short distance from a breakout capability or to use covert operations, or even a military option in the future, in order to delay Iran’s nuclear program,” Zimmt said.

Tehran’s Dilemma

Any sabotage targeting Natanz, if conducted by Israel, could pose a dilemma for Tehran on how to respond. Admitting an Israeli role could be interpreted as showing that Tehran was unable to prevent such an attack and would also likely suggest a need for retaliation, which could in turn prompt Israeli action.

“The reason why authorities are not ready to point their fingers at Israel is that they would then be forced to react — at least at the same level, which would be very difficult, and it would result in Israeli retaliation,” said former Iranian diplomat Hossein Alizadeh, who thinks Tehran’s “cautious” reaction appears to confirm the assessment that Natanz was targeted by a foreign power.

Speaking on July 7, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei suggested that reports claiming an Israeli role in the destruction at Natanz were part of a “psychological war” against his country.

“The Israeli regime should be aware that creating a norm-breaking narrative on any attack against our nuclear facilities, even if it is only propaganda, is considered as stepping in the path of violating red lines of global peace and security,” Rabiei was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.

Suspicious Incidents

The fire at the Natanz facility follows several other suspicious incidents, including a June 25 explosion at a gas-storage facility near a military base east of Tehran.

That has led to speculation about a possible Israeli or U.S. effort to destabilize Iran’s clerical establishment, which is already under intense pressure due to sanctions, growing public discontent, and a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 12,000 Iranians and infected nearly 250,000, according to official figures that are thought to be a significant underreporting.

Analyst Zimmt, meanwhile, warned of the danger of speculating about connections between such events.

“It is inevitable that some of the incidents are also related to infrastructure problems due to the difficult economic situation or mismanagement,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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Here is the Marine Corps’ 2018 warplane wish list

The Marine Corps has asked Congress for $3.2 billion to buy warplanes and other equipment that did not make President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 defense budget plan, according to a copy of the request obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, signed off on the “unfunded priorities list” and service officials sent it to lawmakers within the last week.


It appears to be the first of four such lists due soon on Capitol Hill – one each from the Marine Corps, Navy, Army and Air Force – which together will add up to multiple billions of dollars. This is an annual ritual for the Pentagon and Congress as the budget and appropriations are ironed out.

The most expensive item on the Marine Corps list is $877 million for six F-35 fighter jets. The jet is being built for all the services.

The Marine Corps wish list includes a request for $617 million for four F-35Bs, a version designed to take off and land vertically, and $260 million for two F-35Cs, the jet’s aircraft carrier variant.

The Air Force and Navy may also seek additional F-35s in their forthcoming wish lists.

Other aircraft on the Marine Corps list include:

  • $356 million for four KC-130J Hercules propeller planes, which can either refuel other aircraft or perform assault missions
  • $288 million for two CH-53K King Stallion logistics helicopters
  • $228 million for two C-40A Clipper jets, the military version of the Boeing 737 airliner, which can carry passengers or cargo

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.
A Marine prepares an AH-1Z Viper for storage at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 2, 2016. Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267 conducted aerial live-fire training utilizing the AH-1Z Viper for the first time in Okinawa. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Steven Tran/Released)

  • $221 million for seven AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters
  • $181 million for two MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which are capable of ferrying Marines and supplies
  • $67 million for four UC-12W Huron propeller planes, which are small, multi-mission aircraft

The Marine Corps is also seeking $312 million for five ship-to-shore connectors, which are air-cushion landing craft for carrying Marines ashore in amphibious assaults.

The service also wants boosts in a variety of ammunition programs as well as several buildings to be constructed on Marine Corps bases.

The lists have effectively become addenda to the formal budget request each year. Sometimes called “wish lists,” they provide military justifications to lawmakers interested in adding to the defense budget items the White House did not request. To the extent Congress funds items on the lists, it must increase the total amount for the Pentagon or cut other programs to offset the expense.

This year, the lists take on an added dimension. Trump made “rebuilding” the military a cornerstone of his campaign. While his new budget would increase spending on keeping existing assets in ready condition, it does not provide much increase in the procurement or other accounts that would need to rise to support a significant buildup.

Defense hawks in Congress have criticized Trump’s request as inadequate, and they will use the wish lists to bolster their argument.